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Thomas Edison said this on New Year’s Eve in 1879, as he turned the switch on and off to thousands of incandescent lights in his Menlo Park lab.

In a way his prediction came true, in the sense that, at least in America and the advanced countries, candles are lighted mostly for special occasions, but by the poor as well as the rich.

How might his prediction prove relevant to our future today? For example, might we predict: “We will make electric cars so cheap to operate that only the rich will drive vehicles with internal combustion engines.”

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With just over 3% women represented in the Fortune 500 CEO ranks, even in 2011, the issue of the “glass ceiling” and the need for female empowerment remains as strong as ever. This fall, a Bradley University public relations student team calling itself Inner Voice Public Relations took on the challenge of bringing new resources and focus to the issue, bringing together a local counseling company and girls of Peoria Heights High School in a dynamic training program they created, they named “Dare to Be.”

The pro-bono “Dare to Be” team became the 16th group of award recipients of the Ebeling PR-ize for cause-related communications at Bradley. The winning team consisted of Jamie Herring of Metamora, IL , Emily Bowe of Cicero, New York, and intriguingly, a male member, Shane Snyder of Edwards, IL. All were graduating seniors in the capstone PR program directed by Dr. Ron Koperski of  Bradley’s Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts. The winning team was feted at an awards luncheon hosted by the program creator/sponsor, Charles Ebeling, a 1966 Bradley journalism grad, and the winners each received a letter of commendation and a cash prize. Each semester at Bradley, student “agencies” select a local business and a local not-for-profit and team them in a professional cause-related communications program they create and implement, seeking real, measurable  public relations results.

Ebeling supports a similar Ebeling PR-ize program recognizing achievement in cause-related communications he created at Loyola University Chicago.

The Great Apple Oak

Yes, today the Iraq War is officially over. I say, now is the time to bring back a draft.

If we had had a draft, Iraq might have ended under public pressure by 2004 or 5, saving thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Now would be a good time to institute a draft, not only to help prevent unsustainable wars like Iraq, but also to give young people a chance to serve their nation, either in the military or in other forms of public service, for a few formative years of their young lives.

Not only would we eliminate the risk that only one percent of the nation would be engaged by some future political decision to enter into conflict, but we would gain the low-cost, character-forming service of millions of a diverse corps of strong, smart young people. They would gain skills, discipline and a sense of service that would build character and maturity, and serve as a pre or post-college opportunity to help build the nation.

and it needs a lot of updating. That’s what Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Meecham reiterated today on Morning Joe, and I couldn’t have put it better.

What’s wrong with our “18th century constitutional republic?”

For one thing, we don’t elect our Presidents through a popular vote. We vote, yes, but then those votes are translated into Electoral ballots in the archaic Electoral College, and allocated unevenly across the states, which has resulted more than once in the person who won the popular vote not being elected President. That isn’t democracy, but a holdover from a political compromise in the 18th century that makes no sense today.

We don’t have term limits for Senators or Congressmen, so we wind up with career politicians with increasing obligations to generations of supporters clouding their aging minds.

We have a Congress who’s rules result in political gridlock time and again. Federal campaign finance is a scandal and a disgrace to democracy and fairness.

The President goes to war, even in non-emergencies, without the consent of Congress. The Supreme Court tips the balance in elections and political matters.

What do we need. We need a new Constitutional Convention and a democratic process for selecting delegates. We need deep and fundamental reform of our political system, and if we don’t do that, we run the real risk of a 21st century version of the French Revolution, in which the people take back their government, not at the ballot box, as it ought to be, but by force. Then, everyone loses, and we lose America. If we face up to the demands of the present and look to the future, the positive possibilities for the U.S. are endless.

I met noted poet Andrei Codrescu in the early 90s, as he drove his high-finned Cadillac convertible onto the lot of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s drive-in restaurant, now a company museum, in Des Plaines, IL. I guessed he was properly impressed, because he was to write in his book, “Road Scholar — coast to coast late in the century”, a commentary on his visit, including the conclusion, “Next to rock “n” roll, McDonald’s is the most enduring American creation of the second half of the twentieth century.”

Of course, being the cultural critic he continues to be today, nearly two decades after releasing the Peabody Award-winning filmed version of his book both in theaters and on PBS, as he interviews me ( I was then heading corporate communications for McDonald’s) wearing our vintage paper McDonald’s “crew” hats,  Codrescu observes that the immensity of the Midwest plains, “allows imperial daydreams to roll unimpeded.”  Was he trans-mutating the agricultural abundance of middle America with  Ray Kroc’s hopes and vision for the growth of McDonald’s? I suppose so. Sort of thing a displaced Transylvanian might do.

The following is from the poet’s website, http://www.codrescu.com:

Road Scholar: coast to coast late in the centuryHyperion, 1993Andrei Codrescu describes his coast-to-coast journey across the United States, discussing the beatniks, ex-hippies, and poets in New York’s East Village, a drive-through wedding in Las Vegas and other oddities. Inspired by Kerouac’s legendary paean to American wanderlust, On the Road, Codrescu sets out to discover for himself the wonders of the USA. Published to tie in with its companion PBS-TV special, the book sparkles with the author’s wit and sardonic humor. 60 photos.
Click here to order this Hardcover from Amazon.com Signed editions available from the author. Please email Andrei for more information.
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